Thursday, November 29, 2007

The YouTube GOP Debate

This was the "debate" that the Republicans almost cancelled several months ago after the Dems had too much fun with it. Questions from a snowman? Oh, they were too grown-up for that. But on Wednesday night, the slightly-winnowed field of Republicans fighting for a chance to lose to a Democrat sucked it up and showed up in Florida to take questions from real and imaginary video people – anything to get their face in front of voters as crunch-time collides with the holiday season.

Immigration – set up and planned as a wedge issue for the party this year – was the subject early on. The first question was to Giuliani about New York being an immigrant "sanctuary city". Rudy denied making NYC a sanctuary city ("Did, too/Did not" exchange with Romney). He actually made fairly sensible arguments for letting immigrant kids go to school, etc., all of which makes him less likely to be the nominee of the rabid GOP. As Romney tried to play tough guy on the issue, Giuliani dropped something I haven’t heard before – that Romney had undocumented workers working on his mansion in Massachusetts (apparently a year-old story in the Boston Globe). Mitt then asked, if you have a company working for you, are you supposed to go out and ask for everybody’s papers? Good question – for the rich, immigration status ignorance is bliss. Even for professionally-constructed tough guys like Romney.

More rabid immigration heavy-breathing questions -- will you allow amnesty? It goes to Fred Thompson, and the heat in the room when Romney and Giuliani were going at it was suddenly sucked out of the room, replaced by the tepid, slow-motion bleatings of a guy who looks like he just woke up. He agreed with the video guy and then made the remarkable admission that "we have all hired people that in retrospect was a bad decision." Really, Fred? Do tell! He doesn’t, of course. You really have to wonder why Thompson bothered getting into this thing. He looks like he wants to be home petting his dog.

John McCain finally got to contribute something 20 minutes into it, denying that his immigration bill was "amnesty" and making a strong statement about the demagogic tone of the immigration discussion. He even brought up border security as a failure like Katrina and Iraq, calling the undocumented "god’s children who need some protection under the law". It was quite a statement – the most human sentiment of the night.
Tancredo then soiled the room by applauding the demagogues. Then he made it worse when the told the next questioner, who needs a guest worker program for his seasonal workers, to go stick it. "I’m not going to aid any more immigration into this country." The equally irrelevant Duncan Hunter then checked in, so proud of his border fence efforts – sez he can do 854 miles in 6 months! Only 1,145 miles to go!

Hitting every immigration hot-button, Huckabee got a question about why he gave resident tuition to the children of the undocumented. Like Giuliani, he gives a good-government answer why those kids should be treated like the other kids who grew up in the state. Romney, for some reason, then gets to slab the red meat back on the grill, saying that his reasoning was "great", but liberals have great ideas, too. "But, Mike, that’s not your money." Ah, the punch-line. No doubt this guy was a great Mormon salesman – set ‘em up and knock ‘em down. Mr. Clean forgot he was up against a real preacher, though. "We are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did," says Huckabee, and Romney slinks back into his cave.

Q5: Now we’re talking – Ron Paul gets a question about Council on Foreign Relations and Trilateral Commission conspiracy theories! This is much more entertaining than Kucinich seeing a UFO! Paul surprised no one by actually signing on to the theories as an "ideological battle" between those who believe in "globalism" and those who believe in "national soverignty". He even talks about the reputed Super-Freeway between Mexico and Canada! Beautiful stuff. "Knowledge is out there if you look for it," sez Paul. Boo-yah, Trilateralist enablers! For some reason (wink), none of the other candidates are asked for their opinion on this important topic. CNN: In the Bag for the CFR!

Q6: National debt question to McCain. He attacks his usual spending targets, including S-CHIP, losing the credibility he built up on the immigration question. Next question on the same issue goes to Fred, who someone nudges and momentarily awakens to agree with everyone else and starts riffing on Social Security. OK, Fred – done? Fine, see you in 15 minutes.

Ron Paul finds a way in and says we can save all kinds of money if we just "bring our troops home", to boos and cheers. McCain takes his next opportunity, completely off-topic, to light into Paul for being an isolationist "which caused World War II". Lots of boos for his appeasement smear. Troops say "Let Us Win," says McCain to much applause (he liked that line so much, he repeated it a half-hour later). Paul asks, if that’s the case, why does he get most money from active duty servicemen – a pretty good question if true. He says McCain doesn’t know the difference between isolationism and opposing intervention. Which he probably does, but damned if he’s going to admit it while he’s running for president as the standard bearer of the Stupid War.

After a question on farm subsidies (Iowa suck-up Romney bends like corn in the wind), Anderson Cooper sandbagged Rudy with the breaking story about his billing the city in obscure ways to fund his trips to the Hamptons while he was cheating on his then-wife. Rudy says he had 24-hour security and didn’t have anything to do with the billing. Well, I guess that was good enough for Cooper, who then let it go, but we’ll see where the facts lead on that story.

A woman shows up on a video, waving a lead-based Thomas the Tank Engine toy in front of her kids face. Ack! Thomas! The line of Sir Top-em Hats on the stage nodded knowingly and pledged to buy American.

An ad by the Thompson campaign is played (they all get one) that attacks Romney on abortion and Huckabee on taxes by playing footage of from their past. Although he said he was going to a break, Cooper sees the ad and wakes up Thompson. "What’s up with that," he asks. Stunned – I mean, they did tell him they were going to break – Fred summons up something about those being their own words. Romney "admits" that he used to respect women’s choices but says he was "wrong" back when he was right.

Gun control questions. Oh brother, here we go. Rudy declares an individual right to bear arms (the Supremes have that question now – we’ll see) but almost sanely says there can be reasonable restrictions. Cue boos from gun nuts in crowd. Thompson looks up from his lapel to say that Ruby never met a gun law he didn’t like and declared that "the 2nd Amendment is not a choice thing", one of the less articulate ways of discussing law I’ve heard from a lawyer. The next YouTuber asks all candidates what kinds of guns they own and what kind. Thompson, who last week said his trip to a gun store was like a "day in paradise" said he has a "couple of guns", but wouldn’t (or, more likely, couldn’t) describe them. Hunter got misty about his dad’s gun.

A woman asked what should a woman be charged with if abortion was made illegal? Ron Paul (Motto: Right on the War, Wrong on Everything Else), who says he was an OB doctor, pretty much says go ahead and lock her up. Another asked, if Roe v. Wade was overturned and Congress passed a national ban on abortion, would you sign it? Romney would "be delighted" to sign the bill – "terrific!" he shouts with a spooky smile on his face.

Huckabee, the preacher, excelled on a couple of religious questions, without beating everyone over the head with his beliefs. Asked "What Would Jesus Do?" with the death penalty, he got off the line of the night – "Jesus was too smart to run for public office". But he immediately lost some credibility as when he admitted snuffing several people as governor of Arkansas – after taking all the facts very seriously, of course. Asked in another video by a visibly disturbed young man waving around a bible if they "believe this book", Huckabee went preacher on everyone’s ass in a fairly delightful way, saying that we shouldn’t worry about the rest of the Bible until we get "love your neighbor" and "what you do to the least of us, you do to me" right.

Rudy actually came up with a funny clip, "claiming" he saved the city from King Kong and higher snowfalls. Later, he jokingly took responsibility for four World Series wins by the Yankees.

The best question of the night – booted by all the candidates – was by a Muslim woman, who asked what they would do to repair our image in the Muslim world after the Iraq invasion and the various other Bush foreign policy disasters. Rudy missed the point (on purpose) and said we should "remain on offense against Islamic terrorism" and managed to get in his first mention of 9/11. McCain would continue the surge and fight a date for withdrawal. Hunter would never apologize for what we’ve done. It couldn’t be clearer listening to these responses how wrong all of these men are to restore our image and stature in the world. They don’t think we’ve done anything wrong. They’d probably do it all over again.

As if to drive the nail further in our national-image coffin, Romney announced, proudly, that he would not agree not to waterboard or torture detainees. McCain showed Romney to be the cheap punk that he is, proclaiming that the U.S. should always take the high ground. Romney lamely named the bunch of wrong people he’s getting advice from. McCain said then we would have to withdraw from the Geneva conventions. "We will never allow torture," said McCain, as right about that as he is wrong about Iraq.

So, how long do we stay in Iraq, asked the next video. Fred! "As long as it takes!" "Iran is waiting to fill the vacuum!" Great stuff, isn’t it? Ron Paul said we should let them have their country back. McCain, who knows better, then claimed "American public opinion" made us lose the Vietnam war. This is nuts, but it's what passes for revisionist history on the right.

The biggest line of nonsense came from Duncan Hunter on a question about gays in military. Hunter made the wild claim that most recruits are "conservative" with "family values", and shouldn’t have to hang around a bunch of people who made them uncomfortable. Cooper quoted Romney back to himself when he said "I look forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve openly in the military". Romney seemed to be caught off-guard by that particular flip-flop – I mean, how could he be expected to keep them straight? "Now is not the time," he declared. Well, does he still "look forward to that day", asked Cooper. Apparently not, as Romney tried to disappear behind the podium.

And so on.

So what did we learn after over two hours with the GOP candidates:

1) Fred Thompson is ridiculous. Always looking down into his shirt, speaking in the most unattractively-slow Southern drawl you’ve ever heard. There is a reason Thompson has never played a leading role in a movie or on TV. He is a two-bit character actor, who producers call in when they need someone cranky to sit behind a desk and be a jerk. In real life – as real as these political games get, anyway – he’s bland as Velveeta. He might even be interesting if he were more cranky and more of a jerk. But he doesn’t have it in him.

2) It's hard to watch John McCain. It’s a shame to have someone with his history come up with these brilliant, in-your-face moments on immigration and torture – and then completely blow it with his jingoistic Iraq shtick and his tired quacking about pork-barrel spending. The guy obviously has a sense of humor and a sense of decency. But he negates all his grace by talking up this Stupid War and lying about the last one. What a waste.

3) Rudy Giuliani is not a Republican. He has respect for the good things that government can do, has some idea of government’s limits in controlling personal behavior. He appears to have a good mind for public policy – the best in this field, anyway, but that’s not saying much. He decided to run for President, seeing the dearth of talent that is the Republican field. And he figured he’d run as some sort of tough-on-terror strongman, riding his 9/11/ coattails, and agreed to say "yes" to every goofy GOP proposal they put under his nose, some of which I’m sure he and Kerik used to have good laughs about when they got drunk and watched Pat Robertson talk about the same things on TV.

4) Mitt Romney is playing his role to the hilt. Built from the ground up as the Robo-Candidate, he looks the part, has most of his tough-guy lines down pat, and he’s willing to change even more, if it will get him there. If Republicans want to stay stupid and make the same empty-suit play they did with Bush, he should be the nominee. I'm hoping, anyway.

None of these men will be able to win against whoever the Democratic candidate is. They are all, to one degree or another, too locked in on the wrong side of the war, torture, immigration and the Bush legacy. The American people are looking for a change, and these guys ain’t it.


Brian Calvert said...

The woman who is worried about the lead paint trains from China should be worried. And the government can only do so much wouldn't you agree? Are they going to check every toy (or even a sample) coming in? That would require an even larger government and would require more taxes to pay for that. Do you think it is wise that the gov't take care of this or the consumers? When it was discovered my guess is that after the gov't told us about it that consumers decided with their pocketbooks that they would spend their money elsewhere. And besides why is she buying toys from China? Their are plenty of toy companies here in the U.s. that don't use lead paints because it is against the law. Read the labels. I do because it is not that hard!

Anonymous said...

Mike, why even bother discussing the racist, hate-mongering Republican candidates since it's a foregone conclusion that a democrat will win 2008? What's the point? It's a waste of your time. Why not start mapping out the first 100 days of Hillary's or Barack's administration? That would be far more constructive than speaking to the attributes, or lack thereof, of these gay-hating racists.

Anonymous said...

Why is change, in and of itself, always championed as the solution? Doesn't matter who is in, "It's time for a change" is an inevitable slogan. Should Billary or B.Hussein Obama or Kucinich (stifled giggle) win, their opponent in 2012 will say "It's time for a change."

My wife and I recently treated ourselves to Merry Maids service. We aren't rich, and even though 2 of the 3 Maids appeared to be of some Hispanic origin and the third may have been Russian or from some other former Eastern bloc country, I didn't ask to see proof of citizenship or legal residency....^^GASP!^^ I know, how dare I!!


PS: Mike, how's your jihad on conservative talk radio coming along? While writing this exhaustive and dry slant on the GOP debate, did it ever occur to you that it may be just a bit hypocritical to engage in such an orgy of picayunish criticism at the complicit hands of CNN while crying foul in the relatively small scope of AM radio? Time and again, we see Republicans and Conservatives put through the ringer. Tim Russert gets tough on Hillary on one issue, just one, and all-of-a-sudden it's the end of the world.

You can talk all you want about limited AM frequencies and domination of conservative talk radio, but that's nothing more than a contrived "problem" built up by Liberal strategists such as yourself. It completely ignores the fact that there is a Liberal slant to a vast majority of all the available media (print, cable news, daytime TV, Hollywood productions, live theater, and on and on).

Mike Plaisted said...


There is a difference between a perceived "liberal slant" of the straight news organizations and the giant megaphone used by the mainstream radio (MSR) wing-nuts to drive GOP talking points 24/7.

Straight news is perceived as "liberal" a) because MSR says it is, all day, every day and b) because the truth is always inconvenient for the right. Whether it is the facts of the disaster in Iraq, the disaster of Katrina, the torture of prisoners, the dissolution of the middle class, the failure of the Bush administration across-the-board -- all of these "facts" get in the way of the radical-right agenda. In other words, the truth hurts. The right would rather have phony news, like Fox, that plays the news like the Bushies play science -- ignoring the bad and creating the "good" out of whole cloth.

Here's a great example of how MSR works -- the GOP and their sychophants sent out talking-points about various of the YouTube questioners being Democrats. Literally every local and national wing-nut drove that talking-point all day Thursday to diminish the impact of the debate. I thought the candidates handled the questions OK, within their Republican limitations, but the talking-point was created to embellish this phony point about the liberal media. During the Dems YouTube debate, they got plenty of questions from possible Republicans, so what's the big deal?

The only reason the MSM can be called "liberal" is because the true facts of any situation are usually on our side. That's why Cheney is such a secrecy freak. The truth is liberal; lies are the stock in trade of mainstream radio.

Other Side said...

So you say, Roland.

I believe that the "liberal media bias" is a wonderfully crafted message created by conservative think tanks. Conservatives knew they had to figure out a way to discredit the media. It didn't matter that the media did its job exposing fraud created by both sides of the debate. No, conservatives wanted to hide their machinations from the public and the only way to do it was to cause the media to lose its credibility.

They knew well that if you repeat a lie often enough people will begin to believe it.

You've swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Now, I have a question for you. Comparing conservative talk radio, and the supposed liberal slant of the media, which allows more access for the opposing view?

Anonymous said...

"The truth is liberal..." End of argument man, when you have a monopoly on truth no further discussion is needed. You sound like some funadamentalist dimwit.

Anonymous said...

Liberal good...Conservatives evil.
Liberals honest...Conservatives lie.
Thanks for summing up your beliefs Mikey. Next time spare us the endless droning and just get to the point.

On the topic of talking points, I'd assert that the concept and use of "talking points" is not uniquely Republican. I would also say that by its very nature, the media is sycophantic. Not exclusively to a particular side either. (Hope you aren't so naive as to think Dems don't use them.)

On a typical weekday, dozens of "talking points" are put out by Dems and Reps alike. The media seizes on them, trims, polishes and edits them...the pukes them all over us until the next cycle.

@OS...Conservative talk radio is what it is. Who said it has to "allow access to the opposing view?" MikeyP wants the government to have the power to force radio stations and networks to broadcast other personalities. Being the good lawyer, he has his highly contrived argument created so that it would only effect AM radio. Lord knows we can't have conservatives given air time on CNN, MSNBC and the rest.

Guys like MikeyP applaud Hugo Chavez's approach to media control. Mikey wants to take down conservative talk radio first, then anyone else he disagrees with.

Mike Plaisted said...

Dude, get a grip, will ya? Is there some reason you have to exagerate and lie about my position to make your lame points? That was a rhetorical question, by the way.

I am not in favor of "media control", but where government licenses are necessary because of very limited spectrum, I do think the Fairness Doctrine served a useful purpose in establishing a level playing field in the most powerful of media. It would not be necessary (and mainstream radio would not have nearly as much power) if there were a limitless number of radio frequencies, like the internet. But that's not the case.

The right wing seized on mainstream radio (MSR) after Reagan eliminated the Fairness Doctrine for them in 1987 and went after the angry white male demographic. As the wing-nuts established themselves nationally and locally, they unanimously sign on the Rove-generated GOP talking points, hammering Clinton I 24/7, and since then making excuses and otherwise propping up Junior Bush. It is a strange development and government-licensed tragedy. As you'll recall, the Fairness Doctrine meant not opinions from all sides, but usually no opinion-driven squawking by anyone. Reinstituting the FD doesn't necessarily mean more liberal talk -- it means less opinion-shouting on the radio by anyone.

The right says everyone has a forum on the web, so everything's fair, but they know it's not. That's why they cling to their MSR perch like some lifelong entitlement. In a truly free marketplace of ideas, they lose and they know it.

It's not (ever) a matter of good v. evil -- that sort of dichotomy is for weak minds like Junior Bush's -- or who tells truth or lies. What I'm saying is that the truth, if known, almost always favors the left. That's why the right spends so much energy obfuscating and hiding the truth.

Anonymous said...

How am I exaggerating your point Mikey when you say things like:

"The truth is liberal; lies are the stock in trade of mainstream radio."

Sounds pretty black and white to me.

As for the FD, it was not a lack of available frequencies that killed Air(head) America. Many Americans just didn't listen. No listeners, no advertisers. I know you'll bring up various foundations that support conservative talk radio, but there is no shortage of liberal money out there. Since many potential liberal Sugar Daddys (and Mommys) already have much of their money going into internet based groups, public tv, print media, Indie outlets, etc. they probably figured it would be a wasted investment.

What you want is government to force private companies to give free access to Al Franken, or whoever. I say make them build their own network.

Go ahead and scan the AM spectrum. Plenty of dead air there. The technical aspect of this debate was more relevant 30 years ago when consumer AM radios had sloppy analog tuners, thereby necessitating local stations to keep a buffer between them on the dial. Today's radios are much more precise, allowing more broadcasts than before. Spare me the "limited availability" canard.

Fact remains you want to silence opposing views. If Al Franken had Limbaugh's listenership, this would be a non-issue for you.

Other Side said...

Conservative talk radio is what it is. Who said it has to "allow access to the opposing view?"

Thus, better to silence opposing views.

Anonymous said...

"Reinstituting the F.D. doesn't necessarily mean more liberal means less opinion shouting on the radio by anyone."

And since talk radio is dominated by conservatives, we all know who'll be shouting fewer opinions. You're quite transparent Mike, trading Rush for AirAmerica is quite the bargain.

Anonymous said...

What's funny is that Mikey doesn't seem to understand today's media...

AM radio is DYING. AM radio is being fragmented by more FM stations, Sirius, XM, iPods, not to mention ever-expanding cable TV, satellite TV, and internet. AM radio is soooooo completely tiny compared the power of those other media.

Mikey tries to make it sound like AM radio is the ONLY option for liberals to get their information. The incovenient truth is that a vast majority of liberals do not listen to conservative AM talk radio, they simply await their talking points from Media Matters so that they can bash conservative radio talk show hosts.

If AM talk radio is so important for you to have a voice on, then why not start up your own AM radio station spewing liberal talk? There's more than enough availabilty on the AM dial. Oh wait, didn't you already try that once? How'd that work out for you?

Other Side said...

That's too funny. Media Matters accurately portrays word-for-word what conservative talk radio hosts say, and calls them on it.

Conservative talk radio makes up whatever shit they want, and those like anonynmous 9:27 swallow the crap whole.

Get some mouthwash because you sure stink.